Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Cobweb Social

Well, I've come across another Victorian era "social" game which took me quite a bit of time to research. The event is known as a "cobweb social" or a "cobweb party."

As described in a 1903 newspaper article from Lowville, New York:

"The members of the I.O.G.T. lodge held a cob-web social on Tuesday evening at the home of Miss Lillian Bent."[1]

Despite the fact that Miss Lillian Bent seemed to be quite the party gal that week in Castorland (she hosted the Ladies' Aid Society the Thursday prior to the cob-web social), it must have been good clean fun since the I.O.G.T. is the International Organisation of Good Templars - a temperance group.

With very few references to this cobweb event, I was able to determine the following:

"Each guest or participant is handed the end of a string or a card on which is a number the duplicate of which is attached to the end of a string; or if preferable, each guest may be allowed to select his own string. The ends of these strings are all in the reception-room, or bunched in one place, so that all start from the same room. They should be of different colors, or those for the gentlemen of one color, and those for the ladies of another.

Each guest starts out leisurely to follow his or her string to the end. These strings are run in all sorts of directions, woven about articles of furniture, around the piano legs, up the stairway, down again, from one room to another, crossing other strings, and forming a labyrinth of cobwebs, which gives the name to the entertainment. At the extreme end of these strings are souvenirs, or the name of the partner whom the guest is expected to escort to supper. Much fun is caused in following up the strings and clearing the tangles. The guests need not hurry, and oftentimes, as they meet on their journeys, they spend a few minutes in merrily chatting."


[1] "Castorland," The Journal and Republican, Lowville, Thursday, March 19, 1903, Vol. 44, No. 17, p. 8.

[2] Eureka Entertainments: Containing a Wide Variety of New and Novel Entertainments Suitable to All Kinds of Public and Private Occasions, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The Penn Publishing Company, 1894, accessed at Google Books ( on August 29, 2008.


Anonymous said...


It sounds like people had a lot of time on their hands back then! LOL Fascinating stuff.


Thomas MacEntee said...

Thanks Donna - you wouldn't believe some of the books I found at Google Books from the turn of the 19th century. They listed basically the types of parties or social events suitable for a church or charitable group and some books had one for each day of the year!!!

Apple said...

Our entertainments have certainly changed. I love finding family members listed in social pages of old papers. My family attended a lot of card parties.

Phyllis Cofrancesco said...

Thank you for the information concernng the cobweb social. I am a collector of hand written journals. Today I was reading a 100 year old handwritten diary from the year 1910, in which the 15year old writer, writes that she went to a cobweb social, but never defines it. I was thrilled to find your research when I Goggled it.

Phyllis Cofrancesco said...

Hi Thomas,
Thank you for the information on Cobweb socials. I collect old handwritten diaries. Today I read a 100 year old diary written by a 15 year old girl in PA in 1910, who had gone to a cobweb social. Not knowing the particulars of this term, I googled it. Voila!

Thomas MacEntee said...

Phyllis - you are welcome! I had fun researching this post and finding out what a cobweb party was!

Anonymous said...

We used to go every year when our girls were little back in the early '90's to a cobweb social held at a small church for their fundraiser. They would dig up a large dead bush (no leaves)set it in a large metal tub w/dirt and weave the strings all around and through it. You got your string tied to a clothes pin and went to work untangling it. After you got it done you follow it to someone waiting at the end with your prize. Businesses donated different things like gift certificates etc...
There was a smaller, easier bush for the kids w/prizes like crayons, coloring books etc...
Sounds weird but it was a blast! I got thinking about it and googled it and found this site.